Tag Archives: Duluth

Lights out for the Blatnik Bridge?

The iconic lights that outline the Blatnik Bridge linking Duluth and Superior will go dark and come down later this year during maintenance on the bridge.

Whether they return when the work is complete in 2013 is up in the air.

Corroded, in the way and “failing at an alarming rate,” the more than 200 decorative lights and their wiring have to be removed as part of a $12 million, two-year maintenance project on the bridge that’s slated to start in May, said Beth Petrowske, public affairs coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Duluth.

Putting the lights back up and replacing the wiring is estimated to cost $1.2 million. Minnesota generally splits costs with Wisconsin on Blatnik and Bong bridge projects, but the Blatnik’s decorative lights were a project initiated and paid for on the Minnesota side from the beginning back in the 1990s.

That’s the catch in replacing them.

MnDOT is “willing to cover and can commit to our 50 percent” of the replacement cost, or $600,000, said Duluth District Engineer Mike Tardy. But now, in a time of tight budgets and many other pending road projects, MnDOT says it wants Wisconsin — or some other source — to chip in for the other half.

“I understand that the decorative lights on the Blatnik are an important feature for the area,” Tardy said. “Our challenge is that the price tag to replace them is really substantial. The funding has to come from somewhere.”

To be clear, the lights in question do not include traffic lights and navigational beacons — only the bridge’s “aesthetic” lighting.

State Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, has gotten involved in the issue, reaching across the bridge to Superior Mayor Bruce Hagen and, in turn, officials from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation in an attempt to find a solution.

“I was incredulous, (thinking) ‘this can’t be possible,’” Reinert said of when he first heard the lights might be going away. “In terms of Duluth landmarks, I think of the Lift Bridge, Enger Tower and the Blatnik. … The idea of it being gone is just flat-out not OK by me.”

As for WisDOT chipping in money toward the lighting, Chris Ouellette, communications manager for WisDOT’s Northwest Region, said, “We haven’t said yes, but we haven’t said no.

“Our department is in the process of drafting policy for decorative lighting and how funding for that type of project might work,” she said. That discussion is taking place in Madison, she said, and there might be more details to report this week.

Wisconsin Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, said he expects the lighting to be discussed during the annual Superior Days in Madison this week. But he said tight budgets may make it a tough sell.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult,” Milroy said. “It’s something that a lot of people think is an amenity” instead of a necessity.

“When there’s not a lot of money to go around you have to prioritize what’s important,”

Reinert said the goal is for the two states to split costs. But if that doesn’t happen, he said, he and Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, have drafted a bill to require MnDOT to find the money to reinstall the lights. Both legislators said that’s an option they don’t want to use.

“We’re hoping that MnDOT will partner with WisDOT to get the money to get those lights back up,” Gauthier said.

The lights

The decorative lights on the Blatnik originated with a letter from Duluth businessman Monnie Goldfine to then-state Sen. Sam Solon in 1991, said longtime MnDOT spokesman John Bray, now retired after three decades with the agency.

“A lit-up Blatnik Bridge would be a symbol of uniting Duluth with Superior and would serve as a sign that we welcome visitors,” Goldfine wrote in another 1991 letter on the topic to city and state officials.

The letter was written as planning was under way for a massive overhaul of the Blatnik Bridge in 1993-94, when the span was completely closed to traffic for months.

The lights were installed and — after a long delay caused by water leaks into the fixtures — they officially debuted on Nov. 21, 1996.

Since that time, they’ve become a familiar sight in the Twin Ports — and they’ve been subjected to a lot of abuse from Mother Nature and passing traffic.

“The lights are exposed to the harshest environmental conditions that there can be: rain, wind, snow, salt that can cause corrosion … vibrations from heavy trucks. It’s pretty intensive maintenance,” Tardy said.

Now the fixtures have to come down to allow for sandblasting and painting of gusset plates this summer. They’ll be saved for possible reuse; the corroded conduit and wiring won’t be.

The annual expense of operating the lights is about $15,000 to $20,000 — also paid for entirely by Minnesota at present, though Tardy said that’s of less concern than splitting the more-significant restoration cost. There’s a chance operating costs could be reduced with the use of LEDs or other, newer lighting technology if the lights are reinstalled.

Tardy said he’s hoping the return of the Blatnik lights is less an “if” and more a matter of “when.”

“I’m optimistic that we’re going to be able to make this work,” Tardy said.

SOURCE: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/223396/

Stopping Corrosion in our Harbors – Duluth/Superior Harbor

Every ship that passes under the Duluth/Superior harbor lift bridge is a sign of a healthy, working, international port. but for this to exist, requires steel. Nearly 14-miles of underwater metal.

Loading facilities, docks and shorelines, the shipping canals; the very foundation of industry here is built on an underwater steel infrastructure. But it’s corroding, and failing.

It’s falling victim to an aggressive form of fresh water corrosion.

Chad Scott is with an engineering company based in Superior. He first discovered the unique form of corrosion back in 1998 and brought it to the attention of the scientific community.

Today, his focus has turned to helping repair the harbor and protect it from further damage.

“There were a couple of projects in the harbor we were called to inspect that had already completely failed. They had gotten so thin and with the forces on them, the steel actually bent so you can’t repair it at that point,” Scott said.

Replacing all the steel in the harbor would be a monumental task, taking years and costing hundreds of millions of dollars. But does it all have to be replaced? Not necessarily, if the corrosion is caught early enough.

It also depends on individual docks. There are some docks that have actually commenced replacement projects and there are other ones that have gone through protective procedures.

Good news for the port, because it owns such a large amount of steel shoreline. Last summer they repaired this entire dock line, a $6 million fix.

From federal to local, that effort includes UMD’s Biology Department, and Dean Dr. Randall Hicks. Dr. Hicks says it’s a multi-agency battle because there are global implications.

“Corrosion is a major problem world-wide. it’s responsible for huge economic losses and there’s a lot of effort put in to try and prevent corrosion, even on your cars with better primers and paints. The problem is in a harbor you have steel that’s submerged and it’s very expensive to replace it or to mitigate the problem.”

Dr. Hicks said we are beginning to understand the problem. But in order to find real, long term solutions, additional research needs to be done. and research takes money.

“We are doing our best to gather as much information as we can so we can keep the study moving forward. But without additional funding it’s not going to go forward.”

The short term goal is to save the steel that can still be saved. Long term, researchers hope new alloys and materials will be developed for future construction that can stand up to this aggressive corrosion.

Divers have been measuring corrosion rates over the last two years, both in and outside the harbor. It’s research that may not only help us, but ports around the world.

SOURCE: http://www.wdio.com/article/stories/S2378127.shtml?cat=10335

Duluth artwork gets some TLC

A team of art conservators chip away at the damage left by years of wear and tear at Duluth’s statues and monuments.

Public sculptures in Duluth received a makeover this week from an art conservation specialist and local apprentices.

Kristin Cheronis, a caretaker of public art in Minneapolis and St. Paul, used her tools to combat and prevent weather damage as well as the man- and bird-made destruction of artwork in local parks and pavilions.

“Our goal is to keep (the sculptures) strong and meaningful and as close to the artist’s original intent as we can,” she said.

She worked on “Spirit of the Lake” in Canal Park and “Green Bear” in Lake Place Park on Monday. On Tuesday, she moved on to the “Man, Child and Gull” in Canal Park and the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial on First Street.

Cheronis studied the three bronze figures at the memorial Tuesday with her hands on her hips. They got their start in the early afternoon and planned to spend the rest of the day on the project.

Within seconds she could tell that a bird likes to sit atop Clayton’s hat and that passersby often touch the trio’s shoes, which poke out of the concrete wall where they are inset. She noted streaks of green where the protective wax had thinned. She worried that a neighboring business’s painting project might stain the work.

Cheronis, sculpture technician David Fitzgerald and Penny Perry of the Duluth Public Arts Commission first wiped down the memorial with a non-ionic soap with sponges and gloved hands. An old layer of protective wax was stripped from the sculptures with turpentine. They planned to apply a fresh layer of wax, wait for it to dry, then to buff the art.

Left untended, the pieces would corrode, Cheronis said. The sculpture needs to be addressed at least every other year, with a full service job — like they performed this week — done every five years.

“In another five years, you wouldn’t see the forms,” said Cheronis, whose background is in studio art, art history and chemistry. “It would look seedy.”

Perry served as an apprentice, learning the basics of conservation so Duluth’s 25 to 30 pieces of outdoor public art can get regular attention from a local eye.

Earlier in the day she had seen man-made and natural corrosion damage such as chunks of bubble gum, flecks of nail polish and bird excrement, and learned to spot trouble areas, like the streaks of green worn into the figures at the memorial. She saw the “before and after” of two days of work.

“Working on these gives you a new appreciation,” she said. “When I see the ‘Green Bear’ now, I’m invested in it.”

Peter Spooner of the Duluth Public Arts Commission said public art adds character, and upkeep leads to pride in an area.

“They create a sense of a cared-for space or aesthetic space that people want to develop and keep looking good,” Spooner said.

The trio of workers attracted attention in the high-traffic pavilion on East First Street and Second Avenue East. A few people thanked them for their work, and one woman volunteered to help.

Henry Banks noticed the workers when he rode past on the bus. The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was a project he initiated in 2000 as co-chairman of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Building Committee. He said he often stops by the site and said he appreciated the fix-up.

“This is timely and important,” he said, taking photographs. “People put heart and soul into this monument for our community.”

SOURCE: http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/event/article/id/205307/